A controversial new study suggests that spousal abuse is an evolutionary process to help keep the human race populated. However, there is also evidence within the study, as well as from outside experts, that suggests this new finding needs much more research before a conclusive finding can be confirmed.
The new study was conducted by scientists from the University of Toulouse, France. They interviewed 105 women from an indigenous culture called the Tsimane people who live in lowland Bolivia, according to the Daily Mail. This group of women also have no access to contraception.
From the results of the women surveyed, scientists discovered that of those women who were abused by their spouses, there was a higher instance of children born into the union. This led scientists to conclude that there might be an evolutionary link between familial violence and the number of children that are born. According to the study, 85 of the 105 women interviewed had been the victim of spousal abuse. The survey also found that women were more likely to give birth within one year of being abused by their partner.
These results suggest that more children are born to men who are abusive towards their partners than those who aren’t. The Daily Mail’s story suggests that “domestic violence may have evolved because it benefits men”; [Editor’s note: these sentiments were not expressed by the study’s authors, who have have strongly advocated against such an interpretation].
Anthropologist Dr. Elizabeth Pillsworth, who is a researcher at California State University and was not involved in the study, agrees with these findings.
“Intimate partner violence may persist as an evolutionary strategy to enhance male fitness,” she said.
And there is some evidence to suggest that our closest genetic relatives could also engage in spousal abuse. Certain species of baboon and chimpanzee have been known to use sexual intimidation as a way to control their mates.
Of course, while the study has found that, of the control group, those that were abused by their husbands had more children, other scientists point out that the study covers a very small number of women from a very limited location. As a result of this, there is likely no conclusive evidence yet suggesting that domestic abuse is an evolutionary trait.
Dr. Emma Williamson, who is the head of the Center for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol, doesn’t believe the premise behind the link being evolutionary.
“I don’t believe the premise of the evolutionary link is a valid one,” she told the Daily Mail. “Any human behavior could be described as linked to evolution as humans have evolved and as the authors of the study themselves recognize, such a link cannot be made from this particular study.”
Lead author of the controversial new study Dr. Jonathan Stieglitz is also determined to point out that the results of the study are limited and that further work needs to be done in order to show that a “domestic violence trait” exists. He also pointed out that in order to begin to link spousal abuse to an evolutionary trait, scientists would need to prove that this sort of abuse is then replicated in the offspring they produce as a result of the union. They would also need to show that more children were born in this second generation as opposed to the second generation of offspring from a union that did not contain spousal abuse.